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52:17 – The Magic Productivity Numbers

52:17 – The Magic Productivity Numbers

if you read any of my posts, after a while you will get an idea that I am very enthusiastic for any methodology that gives better results for less actual “work” time.

One of these is the magical 52:17 work ratio. Sounds mysterious. Well it’s not. Everything I admire I admire for it’s simplicity.

This is no different. Fifty two seventeen is simply a work to rest ratio. The idea is that people are optimally productive when they work in bursts of 52 minutes at a time, followed by a 17 minute break in which they do anything other than the task they have been doing.

Why these specific numbers? Actually I don’t know. I’m guessing that whoever found the magic numbers realised that it was the absolute sweet spot for continuous work throughout the day.

I have heard in the past that it’s a good idea to have a 10 minute break every hour while working. Obviously this is an evolution of that. Clearly 10 minutes every hour isn’t quite enough.

So the idea is that while work on a task you do nothing but that task for 52 minutes. That means no looking at Facebook or emails during the 52 minutes. Then once the time is up you stop right away.

The obvious question here is, “what if I’m on a roll with a task and don’t feel like stopping?” Well this happens to me. Personally I think it’s poison to the 52:17 method. The reason it works is because you are stopping before you get tired. If you are on a roll on a task, at some stage you won’t be on that roll and instead you will be flagging.

At this point the rhythm of the day is lost and it I would wager that you won’t get much more productive time in for the day. You will do a bit here and there, but not the concentrated effort required to power on through task. The secret is in the resting before you are tired by the task.

Another tip about it is that at first, if you are accustomed to flicking from task to task without focus on a single task, you may find that 52 minutes is a hell of a long time to focus on a single task. I recommend starting your time focussing on a single task in blocks of as little as 15 minutes. If you are used to flicking task to task, even this will be an improvement. Resist the urge to check your email, or see what someone is doing on Facebook until the time is up.

Give this a try and see your productivity skyrocket.

Image Source: Rob and Stephanie Levy – My to do list is healed and in use!, CC BY 2.0,

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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